Season opener for men’s tennis

Derik Wuchte

Georgia Southern’s men’s tennis will be getting their first Sun Belt competition this Friday against Troy University. Troy, a driven team on a current three-game win streak, will be an interesting match-up, but the Eagles are up to the challenge with new head coach Sander Koning taking the helm.

In his first match as the Eagle’s head coach, Koning lost a close one to East Carolina University 3-4. There are still some points the Eagles need to work on. Yet, Koning is confident and sure this team has what it takes.

When getting an opportunity to discuss the Sun Belt Conference Championship potential with Koning, one of the first things he mentioned were specific teams that came to mind. Louisiana Lafayette and South Alabama were the first two. Troy then followed.

“But we’re not far off,” Koning said. “We’ll be ready for it. The guys have been working really hard.”

“What I’ve seen in college, the great coaches I’ve been under, it’s really about who can handle pressure when it counts. It’s about execution, at believing what you do is right,” Koning said. 

A lot of close matches for the Eagles have been lost from just one or two sets. Sophomore Christian Kerrigan in his singles match against East Carolina’s senior Damien Bernard was lost 6-4, 6-3. Only a few sets in that match going to Kerrigan’s favor could have swayed the momentum for him.

Situations like those made Koning emphasize “execution.” The pressure may be heightened with conference play starting up, but that doesn’t mean it’ll hold the Eagles back.

Koning spent time coaching at Indiana University and Old Dominion University. He also worked for the Dutch Tennis Federation. In addition to that, he competed and volunteer assistant coached at Clemson University.

Now at Georgia Southern, he will be seeing something different, along with the rest of the team.

“It’ll be exciting. It’ll be my first Sun Belt Conference match, and to the team. We’re going out there and we’re going to battle. My assistant, Carlos, has been working hard. It’ll give us a great preview of the conference championship, and I’m looking forward to it,” Koning said.

The Sun Belt is made of 11 teams. Of those 11, nine have men’s tennis teams, including Georgia Southern.

The Eagles are scheduled to face five of those opponents: Troy, Appalachian State, Louisiana Lafayette, University of Texas at Arlington and Georgia State.

“The good thing we have is that [the schedule] was done by the previous coach. The only team we don’t play is South Alabama,” Koning said.

Troy will put the Eagles to the test, and it will give them a good idea of where they stand in the Sun Belt now. Just like Coach Koning said, “You know what you’re up against.”

The match against Troy will be in Alabama on Friday, Feb. 20. It will start the long journey to the Sun Belt Conference Championship in April for the Eagles.